Library status change closer
JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Public Library may decide next week whether to change from a public library to a school district library, Director Erica Wing said during a 2018 budget workshop with the Common Council Monday night at City Hall.
The library Board of Trustees may make that decision at a meeting next week, she said.
The Common Council reviewed departmental budgets proposed for 2018, and the library budget was reviewed. The city is currently providing $278,000 to the library in the city’s 2017 budget.
Budget figures from department heads weren’t made available to the media. But Wing noted that her Board of Trustees may decide next week to commit to becoming a school district library. She said a public referendum would be in order, but the budget she presented may not be too impacted by a change that may take awhile to implement.
“A spring 2018 vote may not provide immediate change,” Wing said.
Wing said she was presenting a full year 2018 budget to the city “although no formal commitment has been made.”
In 2016, officials from the library and the city first discussed whether the facility could become a school district library funded by Greater Johnstown School District taxpayers. The move could be beneficial financially to all entities involved, officials said. The Board of Trustees in May hired Libby Post, president of Albany-based Communication Services, to determine the feasibility of a Johnstown school district library.
If the school library concept is approved, the process will still require several steps, including a hearing. The public library has to submit signatures on petitions to form and fund a new library, and nominate board members. The library would also conduct a vote on a library proposition. Pending approval of that, the Johnstown Public Library would apply for a new library charter and dissolve and transfer assets of the old library.
Once that process is completed, the library would be funded through school taxes.
Wing said her request for city funding for 2018 is “flat.” The city would be providing about 62 percent of the library’s 2018 budget, which is also funded by other sources.
The library official said a “significant change” would occur in personnel costs up to $220,000 due to two main reasons. Wing said most of the staff would see wages go up with a mandatory increase in the minimum wage.
Also, Wing said the library intends to add a full-time “librarian” position for 2018.
“My job has become, for the most part, administrative,” Wing said.
She said the library is “selling the community short” by not having another full-time staff person to concentrate on such areas as library programming.
Wing noted professional consulting fees are also in the budget related to the possible “change in governance” of the facility to a school district library.
“The income side of things are pretty much flat,” she said. “This is not an easy time and we wanted to reflect that in our request.”
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.